In Memoriam: Lila Gleitman

16 August 2021
With sadness, we announce the death of Lila Gleitman, Professor Emerita of the University of Pennsylvania. Lila was a frequent visitor and great supporter of our institute. She participated in the 1977 opening conference of the Project Group for Psycholinguistics. In 1995 she delivered the Nijmegen lectures “Some lexical structures and their acquisition”.

Lila Gleitman’s influence in cognitive science, and in particular on research in language acquisition, is immense. Thanks to her creative, innovative mind, she was behind more than her fair share of game-changing ideas – from  the promotion of “Motherese”, now called Child/Infant Directed Speech (showing us that we must pay attention to the child’s actual input), through syntactic bootstrapping and The Great Verb Game (convincing all of us that children or adults cannot derive the meaning of verbs without paying attention to syntactic structure), to the origin of concepts (convincing some of us, albeit not yet all, that infants come to the language learning task with some in-built conceptual biases).
She has always challenged us to think differently. We will very much miss her and give our condolences to her family.

Prof. Dr. Caroline Rowland,
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen


Obituary by the Linguistic Society of America
Obituary by Claire Gleitman on Language Log
We also highly recommend her autobiographical paper in the 2019 Annual Review of Linguistics.

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